This is how one should regard us, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. Moreover, it is required of stewards that they be found faithful. But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged by you or by any human court. In fact, I do not even judge myself. For I am not aware of anything against myself, but I am not thereby acquitted. It is the Lord who judges me. – I Corinthians 4:1-4
Our passage might be more popular if more folks knew about it. Paul is putting some additional dressing on Jesus’ admonition against judgment in the Sermon on the Mount. That would make this lesson popular with some who have misunderstood the Lord’s teaching.
Rather than a knee-jerk reaction concerning judgment, which usually leads to either legalism or license, let’s understand the text from the Biblical context.
First, Jesus told us a couple of things about judgment: We are to make righteous judgments (John 7:24) and that the standard of judgment is the word of God (John 12:48.)
Second, Paul’s critics accused him of false teaching and cowardice. His response was two-fold as well. First, he taught what the scriptures said and his teaching was from God. Second, what they said about him personally was of no great importance so long as God was happy with him.
There is the two-fold point of our lesson:
First, stick with the word. It is not judgmental to declare something as sin when God has already declared it. Furthermore, it is not legalism to declare the righteous requirements of God as necessary for a right relationship with the Almighty.
It is, however, judgmental to declare opinions as fellowship issues. It is equally judgmental to declare those who struggle with sin and fail to be unworthy of the gospel.
I’ve sometimes wondered how much things would change if we were as adamant about the grace and mercy of God as we are about the severity.
I’ve also wondered if some of those who seem to hold low standards for faithfulness are not the other side of the same coin. In other words, are we holding back because we don’t believe in people? Perhaps we are afraid to teach others because they might surpass us?
Folks, it isn’t that kind of race and Christian living isn’t about minimum standards, either way. It’s about seeking God.
By Jay Kelley
Jay Kelley is the evangelist for the Austin Street Church of Christ in Levelland, Texas.